let the soothing sounds of these podcasts bring you comfort and joy and also maybe some tears

A few months ago, on a snowy Minnesota morning, I met a new friend for coffee. We lazily meandered through the list of topics one is required to discuss when meeting a potential friend, and eventually made our way round to one particular common denominator: podcasts. She was, as it turns out, just as enthralled by these gems of audio entertainment as I am (if not more!!) and we went back and forth, back and forth, exchanging thoughts on our favorite morsels from recent episodes.

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Part of this is because I enjoy entertainment and part of it is because I live alone and can't listen to Bon Iver in every spare moment. If you yourself haven't taken to the world of podcasts yet or if you're simply looking for a few new shows to add to your mix, please, allow me to provide a few hot recs. I have split podcasts into categories for your browsing enjoyment. Yes, some of them do overlap—I am going to need you to overlook that, because nuance and such. K thanks.
 

THE ONES THAT WEAVE A DAMN GOOD STORY

Heavyweight
Extraordinarily empathetic host Jonathan Goldstein tells narratives so thoughtful you can't help but keep listening. He goes back in time and tries to solve what wasn't solved, to tie the proverbial bow on stories that had been left untied. He does it all with a signature curiosity and a self-deprecating, highly amusing bent that you can't help but love. My favorite episode is "Jesse". Start there.

This American Life
This American Life is the quintessential podcast; a reliable, steady ship led at the helm by one Ira Glass. Each week Ira & Co. tell stories that make you think, make you experience empathy, make you understand a life and a point of view different from your own. Unlike other shows that will unceremoniously end their season for a godforsaken amount of months JUST WHEN THINGS WERE GETTING GOOD, This American Life will not. You can count on it. It will be there for you. Like sweet, sweet ice cream on a warm summer's day, it won't let you down. Favorite episodes of late include "Ask A Grown-Up" and "Rom-Com".

Reply All
PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman are two technologically adept, funny, extremely-well-versed-in-the-language-of-twitter guys I want to be friends with. Each episode of their enthralling pod, Reply All, brings you tales of living life in this modern, highly connected, extremely plugged in world of ours. It's thoughtful, it's funny, it's smart, it makes you feel like part of a cool lil internet club? And it is not without merit that this episode was the one that introduced me to the twitter account We Rate Dogs so, I mean, I'm essentially indebted to them forever. 
 

THE ONES THAT BRING ON ALL THE FEELS

Crazy; In Bed
I—not unlike an explorer on a long, physically and mentally draining journey—discovered this podcast one week ago, and have since listened to each and every episode (some of them twice!!). This true gift of a show features good, kind, hilarious people Alyssa Limperis and May Wilkerson as they interview friends / fellow entertainers and talk about their adventures + misadventures in the realm of mental health. Favorite eps include the one with Leandra Medine, the one with Ariel Dumas, and "Crying on Both Coasts", mainly because it included a riff about flying that made me laugh so hard I could barely breathe (cool).

Terrible, Thanks for Asking
Terrible, Thanks for Asking is a wonderfully compassionate podcast hosted by wonderfully compassionate human Nora McInerny. The title of the show stems from the innocent yet superficial question we're all asked so many times every day—"How are you?"—when the person asking isn't looking for anything more than a one word answer and the person responding has no intention of giving one. The title stems from Nora's belief that we should cut the bullshit and remove the pretense and get real with each other. Episodes I keep going back to include "The Middle Place", "Best Friends Forever", and "Perfectly".

The Hilarious World of Depression
The Hilarious World of Depression helps bring light and levity to the topic of mental illness, something that so many people (myself included) live with but don't talk about. In his interviews with comedians and other public figures who have dealt with depression, anxiety, and the like, host John Moe brings attention to a topic that is far too often swept under the rug. He assures listeners that they're not alone; he assures them that it's not their fault. An episode that particularly resonated with me was the one with Linda Holmes, but please note that this rec is highly subjective so maybe just listen to them all?

SuperSoul Conversations
This podcast is hosted by one Oprah Winfrey and includes interviews with thought and spiritual leaders (stay with me here!!) who touch on topics such as presence, wellness, and I don't know, the meaning of life (??)—all of the woo-woo stuff you either love or you don't. A favorite episode is the interview with Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith—I can't quite explain why, but it just hits me deep in my heart or something, you know? Another fav is the interview with Nate Berkus, parts one and two


THE ONES THAT HELP YOU RETAIN YOUR SANITY IN THE POLITICAL NIGHTMARE THAT IS 2018

Pod Save America
Pod Save America saved me when I needed it most. That sounds melodramatic but have a gander at my twitter feed circa 2016 and you will understand this is not hyperbole. The team behind the show is comprised of former Obama speechwriters and policy advisers who consider their podcast a no-bullshit conversation about politics. Start with the most recent episode and, if you're feeling like a hit of nostalgia, go back and listen to episode 4, "Obama's Last Interview".

The Daily
Every weekday morning that I am able to stomach the current state of our country and occasional triggering audio clips of Trump's voice, I get out of bed and press play on The Daily. Each episode is 20 - 30 minutes of wonderful, empathetic storytelling. These two episodes—part one, part two—about civilian casualties from American-led airstrikes in Iraq, as well as these two episodes—part one, part two—about Venezuelan opposition leader Leopaldo Lopez's refusal to stay silent, were a few that moved me most. Today's ep is also a good place to begin.


THE ONES THAT MAKE YOU LAUGH

2 Dope Queens
Allow me to introduce you to Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson. Jess and Phoebs is what I call them, because we are friends. J & P kick off each episode with friendly banter about their lives and then bring on a delightful mix of comedians and sometimes #famous #celebrities, too! There was one episode in which comedian Iliza Shlesinger made me laugh until I cried while flossing my teeth before bed. Crying seems to be a theme in my podcast listening. It's fine! You should try it sometime. 

Lovett or Leave It
Jon Lovett, host of Lovett or Leave It (do you get it?) is my favorite person. He makes me lol. He brings me great joy. His show features a rotating panel of insightful, witty folks who share their thoughts on the latest political scandals and crises from the week prior. It also includes multiple games and subsequent Parachute gift card giveaways, the excitement of which have sunk so deep into my psyche that I have included a link to the goddamn Parachute website. The best episode is the most recent episode; this opinion is evergreen, which feels nice.

Keep It
Another in Crooked Media's lineup of impressive podcasts, Keep It hosts Ira Madison III, Kara Brown, and Louis Virtel bring listeners thoughtful, often hilarious conversations about pop culture and politics in the United States of America. Whatever you have seen on the trash receptacle that is your twitter feed in the past week will be discussed in great and worthwhile depth by these true savants of social criticism. As with LoLI, the best place to start is wherever they left off. Go forth and listen.


Fin! For now. I have approximately 18 other podcast recommendations all lined up and waiting for someone to ask for them; if that someone is YOU, you can, like, text me or something. (I have unlimited messaging, which is pretty neat.) While you're at it, please also feel free to send me YOUR hot podcast recs, which I will gladly accept into my heart.

Boxes

It was a cold Tuesday evening and I was five months deep on the Instagram page of a friend of a friend of a friend, a person I know tangentially at best. A millennial woman, she is. One just like me, one just trying to figure her life the heck out.

Her posts showcased her graphic design work, announced a new podcast she was creating, teased a side project she had waiting in the wings. Her feed was an ode to experiment—filled to the brim with the products of her interests and hobbies, the remnants of an always tinkering creative mind. As I scrolled through it, getting lost in the swirly content hole we're all prone to fall into late at night, I internally applauded her for testing new ideas with reckless abandon, for putting her work out there for the world to see.

At one point I found myself pausing on a particular post, one with words she had lettered scrawled lazily over a photo and, for whatever reason, it suddenly dawned on me that I could do that. I could tinker with lettering or with graphic design or with whatever creative venture felt right on a given day. I could share said ventures with reckless abandon.

It dawned on me that there are no rules. It feels like there are, but there aren't. Not really. Not on Instagram, not in relationships, not in these lives we lead.

We put ourselves in boxes. Neat, tidy boxes all stacked up in a row. I am this. I am that. I can do this. I can do that. I'm qualified for this. I'm qualified for that. At a certain age we put the boxes aside, close them tight, tape them shut. And then that's it. That's all we are. The people in those boxes, the things they represent: the careers, the relationships, the hobbies, the addresses. That's all we get to be.

If we're lucky, someone will come along and open them up. They'll give us license to try new things and to grow more than we've given ourselves permission to. If we're luckier still, we'll open those boxes for ourselves. We'll throw them away, along with our expectations and our preconceived notions of who we're allowed to be in the world.

I know it yet I forgot it, that there are no rules. That we can be whoever we want, do whatever we want. We can introduce ourselves to people we admire. Make the first move with guys we like. Write words that feel too honest and too vulnerable yet too pertinent not to share, then post those words online. Fiddle with graphic design or with lettering or with photography and post the results on our Instagram feeds. Break out of the boxes we've put ourselves in.

The minutiae of our days can trick us into thinking that that's all there is, that we're all we'll ever be. But it's not true. The structure of our calendars and our to-do lists can make us believe we're not meant to branch out, not allowed to try new things—that our 9 - 5 is our life's work forever and ever amen. But that's not true, either.

We live these lives and we fill them with tasks and with meetings and with busyness that's supposed to make us feel purpose, make us feel needed, make us feel important. But sometimes that schedule and that cadence can just make us feel stuck. Life is too precious to be stuck. Life is too short to be stagnant. Life is full of too many beautiful possibilities to keep ourselves in neat, tidy boxes all stacked up in a row.

Fuck neat.

Fuck tidy.

Fuck the boxes we've confined ourselves to.

There's a podcast I listed to a while ago in which Terry Gross interviews Maurice Sendak. You know Maurice, even if you don't. He wrote Where The Wild Things Are, that book that opened our eyes and filled our childhood selves with wonder and with awe and with a healthy amount of fear and, most importantly of all, with the sense of curiosity that's so prevalent when we're young.

The interview is a delighful exchange, one I'd recommend anyone listen to, and Maurice ends it with these simple, poignant, wildly vital words: "Live your life, live your life, live your life."

There are no rules.

Get rid of your boxes.

Live your life, live your life, live your life.

why is everyone asleep?

I look out my window at the apartment building next to me, look for signs of life to affirm that I am not the only one awake. But the lights? They are all off.

Oh for goodness sake. It's 11:30 pm. Why is everyone asleep?

At least I know my upstairs neighbor is awake. I know this because he is currently rolling bowling balls from one end of his apartment to the other. He may also be playing fetch with his dog. Or tap dancing with force and intention, like he really means it. The possibilities abound.

I look to the left and see the moon high in the sky, confirming that it is, indeed, nighttime in the city. It's the time when most people go to bed, when most people scribble in their journals or read a book or take one last scroll through social media before hitting the hay.

I, on the other hand, tend to view the moon not as a guideline for bedtime, but rather as a gently glowing orb lighting my way through the night. These hours of darkness, of quiet and calm, are the perfect time to write. Or to watch Netflix. Or to look through old photos and wax nostalgic for a while. That's what night is for. It's also for drinking peppermint tea, catching up with that one friend who's also still up, or thinking about the trajectory of your life and where you'd like it to go for 15 minutes or for an hour or for hours on end (this is fun!). It's a time reserved for simple math, the most of which involves calculating the number of hours between now and my ambitious alarm, my on-time-for-work alarm, and my just-enough-minutes-to-make-myself-look-mildly-presentable alarm.

That's what night is for. So why is everyone asleep?

Who are these people anyway? People who brag about how early they wake up? Who look upon night owls with confusion and pity? People who wash their faces and brush their teeth and simply go to bed at a reasonable hour? People who wake up BEFORE THEIR FIRST ALARM?

These are the people I aspire to be, and these are the people I cannot stand. This is a contradiction and I recognize that.

It's 11:51 pm and I'm looking out my window again, but further this time, to an apartment building in the distance. There are lights on there. There are night people doing their night things. These people are probably working on a manuscript for their first book. Or maybe planning the trip they're going to take next month. Or perhaps posting photos onto a homemade inspiration board. (They are all very ambitious.)

They could also be breezing through the new season of House of Cards. Or browsing dogs available for adoption in Minneapolis, which is a thing I have definitely never done (but actually I have and I would NOT RECOMMEND IT to the faint of heart). Perhaps they got a craving for chocolate chip cookies and they're baking a batch AS WE SPEAK. And if that's the case, you go Glen Coco. 

It's 12:03 am now and I'm sitting on my couch and I'm looking at the moon. My eyes are maybe getting a little droopy and maybe I'll go to bed or maybe I'll write some more. 

Nighttime is good for writing. Nighttime is good for a lot of things. The world is your oyster and your schedule is your playground.

Sleep is good, too. Sure it is. But sometimes, when the whim of imagination or the spark of curiosity overwhelms you, give into it. Write that essay. Watch that show. Browse that animal adoption page. Fulfill your inner night owl, if only for a little while.

We can always sleep tomorrow.